I read Your Excellency’s explanation of the background of the "Public Notice concerning the Society of Saint Pius X" -- Declaration of Non-Association, dated October 1, 2020 as well as the Explanatory Notes on the Public Notice concerning the "the Society of Saint Pius X"
In the explanatory note, your Excellency explained that the Catholic Archdiocese of Tokyo, in order to fulfill its commitment to protect all life, took precautionary measures to suspend public masses and other gatherings in Church facilities within the Archdiocese, and that our Church is built on unity as a community. Your Excellency invited us to take advantage of our present situation, which provides us with opportunity to reflect anew the meaning of community.
Following your Excellency’s invitation, we would like to share with our reflections on the meaning of Church “community.”
Therefore, as proposed to us, we meditated on the following two points:
(1) The meaning of "protect all life"; and
(2) The meaning of "unity in the Church".
On October 3, 2020, we responded to Your Excellency’s "Public Notice concerning the SSPX dated October 1, 2020". Please kindly find the attached response. We would be very grateful if Your Excellency could be so kind as to make time to read it.
At the same time, we would like to exercise our right to reply, using our Response, which we will be send by email separately, for your convenience. It would be exceptionally gracious, and I would be very thankful if your Excellency could permit us space on the website of the Archdiocese of Tokyo to post our Response adjacent to the Public Notice.
Please allow me to share my reflections with Your Excellency as follows:
(1) "Protect all life"
At the sacrament of baptism, when we Christians were asked what we ask of the Church of God, we answered "Faith".
The Church then asked us: "What does Faith offer you?" We replied: "Life Everlasting".
The Faith for Life Everlasting is the foundation of our religious activities. which offers us Life everlasting. The true purpose of our faith, religion, and the Church is eternal life itself.
We cannot avoid our deaths, and we cannot repeat it. It will happen just once for each of us, and though we do not know when, where, or how, we know only that we will surely die once. This is the solemn reality that no one can change. This death teaches us about the true value and meaning of this temporal world.
Through death, man passes from this world into Eternity. At the moment of death, we all will be judged by the Supreme Judge Jesus Christ, about our whole lives. The purpose of our lives is not to live forever in this world, but to go to heaven. It is to receive the Life everlasting. It is our salvation.
Michael J. Matt interviews Father Thomas Onoda, a Japanese convert who is now a priest of the SSPX
In the Creed of the Mass, we sing "et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum, et vitam venturi saeculi". (I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.) This is the faith that we Catholics confess every Lord's Day.
When a Catholic dies, the priest offers Mass for the dead and prays "dona eis requiem" (give them eternal rest). When man passes away and his natural life is over, not all of his life is lost, because we pray that his immortal soul would enter into life everlasting.
Our Lord himself says: "he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it. For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul? " (Mt. 16: 25-26)
As Your Excellency surely knows, during the Christian era in Japan there was a place in the garden of the Jesuit Priory in Macau where one tree was planted every time a Jesuit member was martyred in Japan. Whenever there was a martyrdom, they would go to the Church and sing together Te Deum (Thanksgiving to the Lord). There was a place reserved until the end, to plant a tree for the apostate Father Ferreira, who was not martyred, and all prayed for him to receive the grace of holy martyrdom. (1)
Our ancestors thought the grace of martyrdom keeping the Faith is more valuable than the preservation of life. They did not follow the example of Father Ferreira, their superior, who unfortunately had apostatized and went to the side of persecutors.
Take also, for example, Blessed Thecla Hashimoto, a Catholic martyr in Kyoto during Genna Period, who was martyred by fire, being bound with her three children, holding them tightly to her last breath, saying, "Receive the souls of these children."
It is not only in Japan. Many of the graduates of the English College in Rome were martyred while on mission in England. When their brothers and sisters remaining at the English College heard the news of their martyrdom, all went to the chapel and sang Te Deum in thanksgiving to Our Lord.
In the history of the Catholic Church for two thousand years, there have been many experiences of suffering from terrible plagues. Even in such times, like doctors who sacrifice their own lives to treat their patients, priests have been on the front lines and have dedicated themselves to protecting supernatural life with heroic sacrifice and service. A famous example is Saint Carlo Borromeo, Bishop of Milan. When the plague broke out, Saint Carlo Borromeo not only personally visited and took care of the sick, but also organized processions and prayers in atonement of sins so that the plague, rightly seen as a punishment, would end.
There are countless examples as above, and all of them show us that the Catholic Church is first and foremost a mystical body living for the supernatural life.
Our Lord also said: "Be not afraid of them who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will shew you whom you shall fear: fear ye him, who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say to you, fear him." (Luke 12:4-5)
The Society of St. Pius X, through the grace of God and Our Lady's intercession, always prays for the grace to give supernatural life first priority.
[Protecting the natural life]
It is important to protect human life, especially the lives of the innocent.
For the record, it is, of course, important to protect people's lives from the novel coronavirus that is currently prevalent. Recognizing this fact, we the Society of St. Pius X, also offer Masses publicly, with the utmost care in the fight against infection.
I am also thinking of a diplomat named Chiune Sugihara, about whom Your Excellency knows. He worked as a consular representative at the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania during World War II, issuing visas to Jews, who according to the regulations were normally not permitted to receive visas. He continued to issue visas at his own discretion without permission from the Japanese home country just to save their lives! He was getting them out of Europe, where their lives were in danger. At least 6,000 Jews were saved by the "Visa for Life" issued by his "disobedience".
The Catholic Church has stood up for the lives of the unborn innocent in particular, and Canon Law imposes special sanctions of excommunication on those who have had or assisted in an abortion. In Japan alone, statistics show that between 2013 and 2018, about one baby out of every seven babies conceived was murdered by abortion. Between 2008 and 2012, that figure was approximately one in six, and from 2002 to 2007, about one in five innocent unborn children were murdered by abortion. Since abortion was legalized in Japan in 1949 an incomprehensible total of 38,954,583 babies have been victims of this abominable practice. How much we, as Catholics, need to pray and act to protect these innocent lives!
We, the Society of St. Pius X, also pray for the end of the war against the unborn children through abortion, by the grace of God, and we wish try to do as much as we can to make that happen.
We certainly agree that human natural life is so important is because it was given by God through His love. We are obligated to use our natural life carefully for the sake of supernatural life. The supernatural life is of the most important value, and the natural life is the means to attain to it.
Suicide is wrong, and euthanasia is not allowed, because these are sins against the Lord, the Giver and the Master of Life, because they would prevent us from obtaining supernatural life.
Our Lord also said that "Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me." He spoke of the corporal "works of mercy", such as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, harbouring the harbourless, visiting the sick; etc. However, if we forget the priority of the supernatural life, in other words, the sanctifying grace, we will fall away from the teachings of Our Lord.
Father Rodrigo, the priest in Shusaku Endo's novel "Silence" which was Scorsese's film of the same title, unfortunately considered it good to step on Christ and apostatize in order to save the lives of the tortured and suffering faithful! (2)
This is because Father Rodrigo, the protagonist of the novel and the movie, thought that the greatest good was to save the natural life of the suffering person before him. And, he did this, instead of putting priority as a good pastor to the saving the eternal lives of both himself and the other Christians'.
Perhaps, unfortunately, he did not pray to God and Our Lady, for the grace of God to strengthen himself as well as the faithful in their weaknesses, begging for mercy, asking earnestly for the grace to persevere without abandoning their faith, hoping thereby to gain heavenly glory by the grace of the Lord.
He regrettably did not remember that human suffering, when offered out of love of God, in union with the Passion of Jesus Christ, has redemptive value and brings supernatural grace to the world.
Rodrigo is taught the theory of apostasy by Ferreira. There must have been many different theories that would justify stepping on the Fumie. For instance, dividing Jesús Christ into two, the Christ of history and that of faith (despite the fact that we can't do so in reality). One of these theories would be to say that because you believe in the Christ of faith, the Christ of history can be trodden on (!).
Rodrigo may have thought that the act of stepping on or spitting on the Holy Image with his foot was not an apostasy because he was in Japan, in a Japanese cultural context, as claimed by the Japanese magistrates, and seconded by Ferreira, an older man who had been in Japan for a long time.
Hearing the magistrates accuse him of the deaths of his fellow Christians because of his own practice of Christ's teachings, Rodrigo may have thought that in order to protect their natural lives, he should make it appear that he temporarily suspended his worship of Christ, and that his faith would not be made public, but his faith would remain only in his hearts.
Perhpas he thought that it would be better to obey the Japanese government. In any event, since the magistrates (as well as Rodrigo himself) did not have a supernatural perspective on life, they could not understand what he tried to witness. He may have thought that in order to make them happy, he should do whatever they say. (The Rodrigo in the movie, in fact, kept, until his death, a little statue of Christ given to him by a fervent faithful, implying that he indeed kept his faith.)
But, Your Excellency we both know that stepping on Icon is a sin, no matter how beautiful the theory or compelling the justification we attach to it, it is a sure sign of apostasy. We know this because there of the entire system of biblical signs in the Christian faith, from the figures of the Old Testament to the New Testament which would be the signs of Glory in Heaven.
The Catholic Faith teaches us very clearly that if Rodrigo sought to protect the life natural life at the expense of eternal life, he committed a grave error.
(2) The Unity of the Church as Community
Supernatural Mystical body of Christ
Every Catholic is a member of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ: the Catholic Church.
As we say in Creed: "I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church," what makes the Church one is that it is the same across all places, times, nations and peoples.
The Church is one beyond place. What is believed in the Vatican, what is believed in Africa and in Japan must be one hundred percent the same. It is not Catholic to say that what is believed in the Vatican could be disbelieved in Japan.
The Church is one across time, immutable and unchangeable. And because the Faith is immutable, that which Saint Peter and Saint John, who lived with Jesus, believed, that what Saint Francis Xavier believed when he came to Kagoshima and that which we believe today must be completely and entirely the same. Therefore, it is not Catholic to say that what the faithful of five hundred or fifty years ago believed, today we may disbelieve.
The Church is one across nations and peoples. That which the Pope believes, what a Swiss bishop believes, what an American priest believes, and what a Japanese layman believes, of necessity must be absolutely the same without relation to location or geography. Yet again, it is not Catholic to say that which one bishop in one country believes can be disbelieved by either the clergy or a layperson in another country.
This unity is found in the unity of the Faith across ages and nations, in the unity of governance, and in the unity of the Sacred Liturgy.
This unity is especially expressed in the Traditional Latin Mass, the unbloody representation of the sacrifice of the Cross, which has remained unchanged in its essence throughout the ages for nearly two thousand years and continues to be offered as the standard of for universal worship throughout the world. The truth does not and cannot change. What was right yesterday is right today and will be right tomorrow. The Church has continued the same thing from the beginning, and continues to observe this Tradition with great care, not because she "clings hardheadedly to the traditional way" created by man on his own, but because she tries to be faithful to the truth taught by Jesus Christ, through the grace of God.
St. Vincentius of Lerins, who lived in the 5th century, said in his famous commonitorium (3) :
“In the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic...”
[In ipsa item Catholica Ecclesia magnopere curandum est ut id teneamus quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est. Hoc est etenim vere proprieque catholicum, quod ipsa vis nominis ratioque declarat...]
"Spiritual unity" in the Church as "awareness"
If we do not understand the Church community from the supernatural point of view of the faith, and its connection to the eternal, as we have reflected above, we risk that "unity" becomes only "awareness" of belonging to a visible "diocesan community" or a "parish community". In other words, "spiritual" is used as a synonym for "being aware" only.
In this case, "unity" would mean "doing the same thing with awareness of community" here and now, without reference to the unity with the past, future and all nations.
Therefore, "doing the same thing as everyone else" necessarily means not only physically gathering in the Church building, but also that "if everyone doesn't gather, I don’t need tobe there neither" or “In Japan, we stand and never kneel during Mass… a sacrosanct rule for Unity” and “In Japan, we receive communion with our hands,” “in Japan, we do this and that” ad infinitum.
This seems to be the unmasked nature of the so-called "spiritual unity" in Japan. However, if we only do the same external actions as everyone else does, without the perspective of eternity, then "spiritual unity" would be nothing else but "unity in the human respect (awareness)".
As long as we do that, it should not matter if we distribute the Holy Eucharist to the non-baptized (on Karl Rahner's theory that all men are anonymous Christians and they are already all saved), or whether we deny Our Blessed Lady's perpetual virginity, or how creative and original we are in the performance of the Mass, of if we have a Zen Mass, or “liturgical dances” at Mass, or a Mass that promotes and encourages LGBT, etc.
Then, there is the very real danger that no matter how different things are done from the whole world, no matter how completely different they are from what the Church has always held dear, they will be considered good.
And then surely as night follows day, the unity of faith across time and nations that the Catholic Church has maintained for two thousand years would be lost. In other words, Relativism would dominate within the Church, and if that were to happen, the Church would be assimilated into the modern secular society.
When that happens, as Your Excellency has stated, the Church as a community will lose the meaning of its existence.
As the Apostle reminds us in Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.”
So, we are convinced that we must keep, by grace of God, the unity of faith, that of Liturgy, and that of government which should guarantee the precedent unity of faith and Liturgy: the supernatural unity which goes beyond times and peoples and nations.
We believe profoundly that we should continue to offer the Mass of All Times, the Traditional Latin Mass, in order to preserve this real and true unity.
In Summorum Pontificum The Holy Father Benedict XVI appealed to all the Bishops of the world on July 7, 2007, when he said:
"What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place."
If I may come back to the example of Rodrigo that I mentioned earlier, the order forbidding kneeling during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, or kneeling to receive the Body of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, or the order to receive communion by hand, these are, for us, a modern Fumie ceremony, an order to step on the Icon, in both attitude and meaning.
In particular, the Sacraments are signs which give supernatural grace. Human life is made up of signs. The same is true of language, and there are various signs that convey our will and thoughts. Clothes, gestures and postures, flags and signals, etc. all ordinary elements in our daily life signify their special meanings.
Therefore, to believe in the Sacraments is to believe in the signs instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Sacraments have a deep biblical meaning in both the Old and New Testaments, and therefore their Biblical meaning cannot be taken lightly.
“The kneeling of Christians is not a form of inculturation… It is quite the opposite: an expression of Christian culture which transforms the existing culture through a new and deeper knowledge and experience of God.” (4)
“Kneeling does not come from any culture — it comes from the Bible and its knowledge of God.” (5)
“Through the Crucified, this bold promise of the Old Testament is now fulfilled: all bend the knee before Jesus , the One who descended, and bow to Him precisely as the one true god above all gods. The Cross has become the world-:embracing sign of God’s presence, and all that we have previously heard about the historical and cosmic Christ should now, in this passage, come back into our minds. The Christian liturgy is a cosmic liturgy precisely because it bends the knee before the crucified and exalted Lord. Here is the center of authentic culture — the culture of Truth. This humble gesture by which we fall at the feet of the Lord inserts us into the true path of life of the cosmos.”(6)
The same Benedict XVI in his “Spirit of the Liturgy” also says:
“It may well be that kneeling is alien to modern culture — insofar as it is a culture, for this culture has turned away from the faith and no longer knows the One before whom kneeling is the … intrinsically necessary gesture.”(7)
"[Moreover] a faith or a liturgy no longer familiar with kneeling would be sick at the core. Where it has been lost, kneeling must be rediscovered, so that, in our prayer, we remain in fellowship with the apostle and martyrs, in fellowship with the whole cosmos, indeed, in union with Jesus Christ Himself.”(8)
No matter how admirable Ferreira was as superior for other Jesuits, and how much authority he had over his own subordinate Jesuits, they did not follow Ferreira, their own leader, and they chose martyrdom by grace of God.
As they rather prayed for his return to faith and his conversion, we believe that we should follow the good example of the canonized and beatified Catholics, by the help of God, if we were in such a situation.
(3) Final reflections
It is precisely in these days when many people have abandoned the faith that we must regain the true unity of the Church community through unchangeable Faith. In order to do so, we believe and act that it is absolutely needed and urgent to keep the Traditional Catholic Faith.
With regard to the suspension of public Masses, Your Excellency wrote: "However, we have received some reports of cases where people refused to understand the purpose of the precautionary measure and chose not cooperate. It was truly disappointing from the point of spiritual unity in the Church."
What did they think, those ordinary laymen who "refused to understand the purpose of the precautionary measure and chose not cooperate?”
Did they not choose perhaps, or rather there was no choice, to protect their life everlasting, by coming to Mass, seeking the Most Holy Sacrament and the Sacrament of Penance?
Your Excellency's Patron Saint is Saint Tarcitius, the martyr of the Holy Eucharist, who shed his blood to protect the dignity of the Holy Eucharist,
I humbly believe that Your Excellency would work admirably to restore the dignity of the Holy Eucharist, that has been so neglected in Japan, even though these actions would mean to invite many challenges.
In your Public Notice, you say, "it is not recommended at this time for Catholics to participate in SSPX masses." However, I believe that the time will come when Your Excellency would judge that it is good for the laity to have attended the Traditional Masses. We are convinced that it is difficult for a Catholic Bishop and successor of the Apostles not to recommend to the faithful that they attend the Mass of All Times, since we are simply doing what the Church has been doing since time immemorial.
Because even when the lies were circulating in the world that the Traditional Latin Mass had been abolished or banned, we were convinced that it was not true. The Traditional Mass can never be abolished in accordance with the Bull of St. Pius V "Quo Primum". As it turned out, in fact, in 2007, Benedict XVI declared that this Mass has never been abolished.
We humbly believe that the day will come when all will rightly recognize that the Mass of All Times, which has been offered unceasingly throughout the world, is the Mass that fortifies and nourishes the faith in the Most Holy Sacrament and that brings true spiritual unity to the entire Church community.
Then, on that happy day, I believe that Your Excellency will congratulate us for having done good works in Archdiocese of Tokyo, by continuing to offer the Traditional Mass for the preservation of supernatural life of faith. In the midst of the Covid-19 epidemic, it was well done to increase the number of Masses and to have taken good care of many souls in the Archdiocese of Tokyo.
We are convinced therefore, then, Your Excellency will be pleased that each of the Faithful who chose to attend the Traditional Mass offered by the Society of St. Pius X, made a wise and right judgment as faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
The ultimate purpose of Canon Law is salvation, Salus animarum suprema lex. Just as Sugihara, who saved the natural lives of many Jews, so we wish to protect, by the grace of God, the supernatural lives of all of our Brethren. The Society of St. Pius X, in accordance with the spirit of Canon Law, considers the salvation of eternal life as the highest law, with the help of Almighty.
Finally, I would like to thank Your Excellency for giving us the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the Church as community.
I thank Our Lord Jesus Christ and Our Lady, for this opportunity to make reflections from the point of view of faith for the life everlasting.
Your Excellency, I wish you a blessed Month of the Most Holy Rosary.
While humbly asking for Your Excellency’s fatherly episcopal blessing on us, and kneeling at your foot, I remain,
Sincerely yours in the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Father Thomas Onoda, priest of the Society of St. Pius X
(1) In the report to Rome by Jesuit visitor and Provincial, Manuel Diaz (January 26, 1636), Manuel Mendez de Moura is quoted who met with Ferreira in Japan:
"Then he (Ferreira) asked me (Manuel Mendez de Moura) if the devotion of the Forty Hours was still practiced in the college. I answered that it was still performed with much devotion and that on the last occasion the church had been more splendidly decorated than in former years. For the church is now adorned with trees which the people of Macao have planted in memory of the holy martyrs of Japan. The last tree is in memory of the most excellent martyr Fr Sebastian Vieira; next to it they have left room for another one, which everybody believes is destined for your Reverence, and all the people are keeping their eyes on it with great expectation. To this he made no answer but shed more tears."
The Case of Christovao Ferreira by Fr. Hubert Cieslik s.j. (p21)
(2) Here, I would like to make it clear, to avoid any misunderstanding, that I am here discussing merely about the fictional personage "Rodrigo" in the novel or in the movie. It is not my intention to judge the real and historical person or the model for Rodrigo. It is only God who can judge real men, knowing all the secrets of conscience. I can only pray for them.
(4) The Spirit of the Liturgy, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger [Benedict XVI], San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000, p. 185
(5) Ibid. 185
(6) Ibid. 193
(7) Ibid. 194